February 5, 2006

More Media Hysteria? Only Time Will Tell

Hatched by Dafydd

The Antique Media has gotten so giddy with their own perceived power that they've now defined any police interest that does not result in a conviction for a serious crime as infringing upon people's rights... even ordinary police investigations that result in clearing a suspect. This high-hat position is staked out by Time Magazine's Melissa August:

[O]n the same evening that President Bush was lauding democracy and freedom, there was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.

For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go.

This is absolute madness. The cops see someone who resembles a person on the terrorist or assassination watch list, someone who might plan to attack the president, and they detain him briefly before releasing him... and Time's response is to assert (not even suggest) that this quick investigation "infringed upon" his "rights." (I suppose that would be the long-protected right not to resemble unsavory characters.)

Even worse, he had a security clearance! That of course makes all the difference; it's a wonder that the Capitol police didn't check for that first thing before detaining him.

Considering that the man was from India and was the guest of convicted perjurer and bribe-taker Alcee Hastings -- who happens to be black -- see if you can guess what was the immediate suggestion made by Hasting's spokesman and/or the erstwhile suspect.

Yep, that didn't take much ratiocination:

[Chief] Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long ["close to an hour"], and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.

August's piece is not labeled as opinion; it's in the Nation section, where I would expect to find news. But it reads as one long attack on the Capitol police, with the added suggestion that a police force that is probably largely black is nevertheless racist and would roust someone solely because of his skin color. So how many other guests in the House Gallery were black or brown, do you think? And how many of them were detained by the Capitol cops? Were the other two people detained that day -- Cindy Sheehan and Rep. Bill Young's wife Beverly -- also detained for "being brown in America?" Does August suggest that if police think they have spotted a suspect, and if that suspect happens to be dark-hued, that the cops should just let him move off undetained and uninvestigated?

There is a dark, sordid episode from my past which I have never before revealed so publicly. Most people don't know that I once had a run-in with law enforcement... which I can only excuse by my youth. And I hope you will forgive me for my lawless ways... and forgive me also, in Christian charity, for not having told you about it earlier. Excuse me while I wipe away these tears of shame.

About twenty-three years ago (I don't remember exactly -- probably traumatized by my guilt), when I was a student at UC Santa Cruz, I was walking home from campus when a car started pacing me. I didn't notice it at first; I was, as usual, lost in thought about some mathematical problem we had been studying that day. But I certainly noticed when the unmarked car abruptly accelerated, whipping to the right and bouncing up a driveway directly athwart me.

I stared, mystified, and two very, very large men in ill-cut, brown suits stepped out. They flashed shields and bade me stand still. They began asking questions: where had I been a half an hour ago? At Zoccoli's deli, eating a sandwich. Can anyone verify this? Well, yeah: the Zoccoli family. What was my occupation? At the moment, the Poincare-Bendixson theorem. Huh? It's my senior thesis at that big university up on the hill there.

We ping-ponged back and forth like this for some time. Every few minutes, another police car or motorcycle pulled up, and another one or two cops got out and added to the scrum around me. My bookbag was of course taken into custody, and a beefy guy asked "permission" to search it, which I gave, figuring he wouldn't be likely to pocket my functional analysis and Galois theory textbooks. They asked for my ID, which I forked over.

I asked what I was suspected of, and they told me "residential burglary; half hour ago." But they seemed a lot terser and tenser than one would suppose, even for such a heinous crime.

Finally, the fourteenth or fifteenth cop showed up. He was a sergeant driving a station wagon, and he was the tallest and meanest looking of the bunch. He strolled up, effortlessly shoved aside four cops who were obstructing his view, and glanced me up and down. "That isn't him," he rumbled, sounding like an avalanche rolling down a chimney; "the suspect didn't have a beard." (Hey, it was Santa Cruz in the 1980s, and in my defense, it wasn't a very good beard!)

The mob abruptly lost interest in me and began dispersing. The last to remain were the two detectives in the unmarked car who had originally detained me. "What was all this really about?" I asked.

"It was the mayor's wife," one explained; "she saw some bum sitting on her front lawn, smoking a joint, and she got scared." I forbore from noting the irony that the mayor of Santa Cruz was a self-proclaimed Socialist who said he didn't believe in private property. "What was the description you had?"

They shuffled their feet a bit. "Uh, what came over the radio was 'long hair with a backpack.'"

Right. Long hair with a backback. In Santa Cruz. Right below the University of California at Santa Cruz!

Since I'd missed my bus, being unaccountably detained, I asked if they'd give me a ride home, and they did. And that's it... I know I did wrong by not confessing to this shameful incident earlier. All I can say in my defense is that I'm sure I was detained for being white in America.

I mean, what else could it be?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 5, 2006, at the time of 4:57 PM

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Tracked on February 6, 2006 7:06 AM


The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin

I once had a very disturbing encounter with the Secret Service. It seems unbeknownst to me then President Clinton was having lunch in the establishment directly across the street from my place of employ.

I was at a meeting at a vendor's office and rushing to get back to a meeting in my building and found all of the most direct routes closed.

After driving the long way around cursing all the way, I pulled into the parking garage in rather a hurry and came to an abrupt stop in the first available parking space. Before I could get out of the car there were three plainclothes men who identified themselves as Secret Service around my car.

They checked my ID against a list of employees in the building and let me go.

I was guilty of being late in America.

The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 6:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi

My friend was driving late at night, suddenly boxed in by four unmarked cars. She was escorted into a police station.

It turned out, she was tailgating a car driven by a highly dangerous criminal wanted by the FBI.

When the FBI agent realized she was an innocent but somewhat drunk bystander (bydriver?) who happened to be driving behind the criminal, they let her sober up and released her. They did not bother about her drunk driving.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 7:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

This is predictable. Aging former protesting boomers and their acolytes in the press getting indignant because "the man is stepping on my freedom." If you are part of an elite august body at one of the governmental high points of the year, you, by definition, are not a target of "the man."

What probably frosted their buns was that sheer name recognition, (direct for Mother Sheehan, may her 15 minutes be over, or indirect in the case of Rep. Hasting's guest,) didn't over-ride legitimate, rational police conduct. How dare you? Don't you know who we are?

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2006 5:54 AM

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